Thursday, July 5, 2007

Nothing says "freedom" like noise pollution (by Matt)

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been impressed by the 4th of July, either by the state of the country in which we are all so proud, nor in the overall festivities. The day just doesn’t stand out in my mind as anything to celebrate. I’ve never been one of those blind-faith patriot types who considers any level of disapproval of the government to be an act of outright treason. I’m more of the “America is okay, but I think it could be a lot better.” Now, I’m not going to run off to Canada and I’m certainly not a Nazi (although the accusation has been made), but on the list of words best describing me, “American” would be somewhere in the vicinity of “bi-curious,” which I’m not. Just so you know where I stand.

(Don’t worry. It gets way more positive from here on.)

This year was different. This year I participated in some of those hard-won first amendment rights everyone’s so excited about. First, I participated in the right to sleep in. Then I participated in the right to ignore my son and sleep in some more. Then I participated in the right to eat an egg sandwich. Then my wife informed me that I had the right to clean the two upstairs bathrooms, in which, as a non-bi-curious American, I participated feverishly. Then there was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, followed by much combusting and projectiling at the hillbilly gun shootery. Then, and God bless America for this, I ate the largest single-patty cheeseburger I have ever seen in my life. Now, if we were living in communist Russia a statement like that wouldn’t hold much clout, but this is America ladies and gentlemen, and this burger had cow parts in it that I actually recognized, it was so big. So, I shot some stuff, then I ate some stuff. In a classic display of waste and consumerism, the stuff I shot and the stuff I ate were two different things.

After all of the bullets were fired and all of the cow was eaten, we settled down to something I have never known in all of my years as a disgruntled American: Community Pride. Who would have thought that in our tiny blue-color burg way the crap up here in Northeast Indiana I would have been treated to one of the most awe-inspiring sights of my life? It started when my neighbor (not the one with the guns, another one, one with a mean wife and whose son might be the anti-christ) started lighting off a bunch of fireworks in the street. I was irritated at first because last year one of his fireworks hit our house and caught one of our bushes on fire. Just to make sure it didn’t happen again, I went out and sat in the driveway with Jack. I was not the only witness, however. His driveway was crowded with kids from the neighborhood, all of them cheering and laughing. I guess that was what initially made this Grinch’s heart grow, but the ear-splitting explosions didn’t hurt. Pretty soon starbursts were appearing all over the sky from other parts of the neighborhood. It was like that song “Dueling Banjos,” but with explosives. For half an hour all we could hear were bursts and whistles and crackling diamonds punctuated with fountains of fire. We hadn’t even gotten to the big stuff yet. This year our little town had been given a large sum of money so that a local fireworks display could be organized. This meant that no one had to drive all the way into Fort Wayne, fighting traffic just to sit for an hour and a half while the mosquitoes attempted to suck them dry, then watch for fifteen minutes while some less-than spectacular lights twinkled in the sky a mile off, only to fight for another hour trying to get out of the stupid parking lot and home. It was nice. Betsy, her mom, Jack, and I took some chairs and walked to an empty lot next to a small pond in our subdivision (Or is it an addition? I’m bad at math.) to watch the show. We didn’t know what to expect, exactly, but we certainly didn’t expect what happened. We had an absolutely perfect view of the fireworks, and somehow no one else in the neighborhood had the same bright idea, so we had the place to ourselves. But it wasn’t just the official town fireworks display that wowed us. All around us starbursts filled the sky. We didn’t know where to look, there were so many fireworks. Explosions filled the air and the ground was lit by the neighbors’ celebrations. We all just sat there and laughed, it was so unexpected and terrific. When the fireworks finally began to taper off we packed up our chairs and walked the two blocks back home while explosions of sound and color filled the air. Even now, as I sit writing this, the celebration hasn’t stopped. I’ve never in my life known anything like it. Of course, during the official town display someone in one of the houses across the pond was blaring the song “Convoy” through an open window. A forgivable offense, to be sure, on such a festive evening.

And now, having practiced yet another first amendment right, the right to ramble, I will go.

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